Tina Fey Explains Some of the Greatest (And Oddest) Moments In “Kimmy Schmidt”

And why she can’t ever do a TV series with Amy Poehler.


Tina Fey took the stage at the Tribeca Film Festival last night to talk about being well aware of her limits.


That may seem like an odd thing to admit, seeing how the prolific Fey switches back and forth between TV and film as a writer, creator, producer, and actor with seeming ease. Isn’t, say, being a director, the next logical step?

“I would say never say never, but I really respect directing and I know that I still think of things from a writer or actor’s point of view,” Fey says. “I don’t understand or really care about cameras.”

While we all await a directorial debut from Fey as eagerly as we’re waiting for that Mean Girls musical (she has confirmed that she’ll be working on it this summer, praise be), Fey’s other credits around cultural staples like Saturday Night Live, the Mean Girls movie, 30 Rock, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are no short order. During a talk at the Tribeca Festival, Fey gave a guided tour of her creative process and shared some revelations about some of her most notable works. WARNING: If you haven’t finished binging Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 1) shame on you and 2) there are spoilers below.


Why It Was Time For Kimmy Schmidt to “Become a Woman” in Season Two

It was one of those things where you kind of rip that Band-Aid off. I mean, that’s how I like to think of human sexuality–a scabbed over thing. In the back of my mind, I didn’t know if Ellie [Kemper] was going to get pregnant in real life and when it would time out. I was a protecting myself in case we needed an on-camera pregnancy, which now we don’t–Ellie is expecting her first child but in August, so between seasons. I felt like [Kimmy] deserved to have some slight step forward and to dispense with that so that whatever [her] next relationship is doesn’t have to be quite as fraught.

The Story Behind Fey’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Cameos

[Psychiatrist Andrea Bayden] is a role I had in the back of my mind from the moment we pitched the pilot. I liked the idea of being the person who got to talk to that character. This is going to sound really cheesy, but when you write a series you have to really be in love with all your characters because you’re going to spend so much time thinking about them. So it appealed to me to get to play the person who gets to try to talk to [Kimmy] and help her in this messed up way. But in season one, I was coerced by the writers to play Marcia Clark–thank god I went first on that one.

Tina Fey, on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Sarah Paulson on American Crime Story: The People Vs. OJ Simpson, as Marcia Clark

How the Italian Grandma in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Came to Be

[We thought] she’s just so old and wrinkly that maybe it’s a puppet. People at the [Jim] Henson Company built Pupazza. An old friend of mine named Joey Mazzarino who was a puppeteer from Sesame Street was the voice of Pupazza.

Enforcing the “Colin Quinn Rule” In the Writing Room

I had been pulled in to write jokes for Colin when he took over Weekend Update which was really great because I had never had to write show jokes before and Colin was a great teacher in that he’s a real stand-up. I still have a thing that I still evoke called the “Colin Quinn Rule” in our writer’s room at 30 Rock and Kimmy Schmidt: Colin used to always say you can’t write a Weekend Update with a punchline of [just showing] a little cartoon character. Sometimes our writers drift toward cartoon references and I’m like, I’m evoking the “Quinn Rule”–this joke will not stand.

Tina Fey vs. Amy Poehler

People sometimes used to say, why don’t you guy do a series together? But the funny thing is, and I think we both know this to be true, it’s because we’re actually both alphas, so it works in short bursts.

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.